Tuesday September 17, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31a) Gospel (St. Luke 7:11-17)
In the Gospel, we see Our Lord working this great act of compassion for this mother whose son had died, bringing the son back to life and giving him to his mother. But if we just think about ourselves, it is exactly what He has done for us. In dying and rising from the dead, and incorporating us into Himself, He has taken those of us who did not have grace (supernatural life) - those who were dead to God - and He restored life. He gave us His grace; He gave us His life; and He gave us to His mother. For each one of us, then, we see the exact same pattern.
But then we need to ask ourselves, "What is it that is required of us if this is the case?" What is required is exactly what we see Saint Paul talking about, that each one of us is a member of the Body of Christ. And by "body", Saint Paul is using the Hebrew notion which is the whole person; it is not a matter that we are part of a body and separate from the soul, but rather, we have God's life in us as we have just seen, and so it is that we are part of the Person of Jesus Christ, members of the Person of Christ. As such, we have been given His grace, His life, and we have each been given a variety of gifts. We have each been given certain things that God desires for each of us to do. Just as when we think about our own person and our own bodies, Saint Paul will go on to talk about how there are different parts that all have different purposes and different functions. The whole body cannot be eyes; the whole body cannot be hands; the whole body cannot be feet. But even more than this, we recognize that what Saint Paul is doing is he is going into his theology of the body here immediately after he spoke about the Eucharist. Yesterday, at the very end of the reading, we saw Saint Paul talking about the Eucharist and making sure we understand that this is Jesus Christ. Now, he is talking about each one of us. Why is it that we can receive Holy Communion? It is because we are a part of the Body of Christ; we are members of the Person of Christ. Therefore, we can receive Him because it is who we are. It is building each one of us up so that we can do the work for which Christ has called us, so that we can continue to grow in the life of Christ, so that we can become another Christ - each one of us. The whole purpose of this is so that each one of us can become more perfectly who we are.
Now, that also means we need to come to the Lord to find out what it is that He wants from each one of us. Saint Paul, for instance, talks about how there are different functions in the body and within the Church. He said there are apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of mighty deeds, and gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and so on. Not everyone has the same abilities and not everyone is called to the same task. So what we need to do is put our gifts at the service of one another. We need to ask God what it is that He wants of us - be very careful not to tell Him; that is a trap that lots of people have fallen into these days. Among the charismatics, for instance, they used to get together and say, "What gift do you want? We'll pray for it for you." That is the wrong thing. Ask God what gift He wants to give you. Do not try to tell Him what to do; it does not work too well. I remember one woman telling me, "Well, I wanted the gift of prophecy, and they said, 'Okay, we'll pray for you for the gift of prophecy.' They all did. Now do you know what He wants me to do? He wants me to tell people what their sins are!" I said, "That's right. That's the gift of prophecy." She said, "No, I wanted to predict the future! I didn't want to have to do this!" I said, "You were arrogant enough to ask - now you'd better use the gift that's been given." So do not try to play God. Ask God what the gifts are that He has given to you and put them into practice. Do not try to be something you are not. And do not be jealous of what somebody else has; it does not work.
Each one needs one another. No one of us can do any of these things by ourselves. First, we are all dependent on Christ to do the one little thing that He is asking us to do. Secondly, each one of us is dependent on one another because the gifts that I have are different from the gifts that you have, which are different from the gifts that the person sitting next to you has, and so on. We all need one another to build one another up, and we are all united one to another. That is the whole point, again, that Saint Paul is making regarding the Eucharist. We all receive the same Jesus; we are all united through the bonds of grace; we are all united in the Eucharist. All of us are part of the same Person, and the same Person does not hate one another. Your body parts do not hate one another; they do not war against one another; they do not think badly of one another. Therefore, we need to do the same with one another as members of the Body of Christ, to see the dignity of one another and to build one another up. That is what each of us is called to. When you look at another Catholic person, you have to be able to recognize that this is somebody who received Holy Communion, that Jesus loves this person so much that He has placed Himself into this person's heart, with all their sins and all their weaknesses, just like you. Different sins and different weaknesses, yes, but with all your sins and weaknesses too. And so, just as none of us can despise you as a member of the Body of Christ, neither can any one of us despise one another as a member of the Body of Christ.
That is what the Eucharist is about. It is recognizing that we have been given the life of God and we are called to be members of His Body, and we are called to love one another and build one another up. That is what we are called to by our own dignity as baptized persons - and now even more so as persons who receive Our Lord in Holy Communion - to be able to take the love which Jesus gives to us in the Eucharist and to be able to put that into practice toward one another, to make sure we do not despise the members of the body, but rather, that we work to build up one another into the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.